Thursday, June 23, 2022





Disguised as a compact econo sedan appealing to shoppers looking to squeeze every possible mile out of every drop of fuel, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is a performance beast offering a driving experience commonly found in performance makes bearing luxury labels.

New for this year, the N version of the Elantra, which earned top honors as 2021 North American Car of the Year in its traditional mild-mannered form, sits at the top of the food chain in the South Korean automaker’s compact sedan portfolio.

Instead of a 147-horsepower 4-banger mated to a CVT or gas-electric hybrid drivetrain, however, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that sends 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque to its front wheels. Various reports give it a zero-to-60 mph clocking of around 5 seconds, which is at least 3 seconds quicker than a standard Elantra. 

Want a shot of more power? Click on the red button below the steering wheel crossbar marked NGS. It stands for “N Grin Shift” and works sort of like the “push-to-pass” in today’s Indy cars, giving the Elantra N a 20-second boost of 10 horsepower, not to mention a quick sound blast out the large-bore dual exhaust pipes.

Of course, you are not going to get the low fuel mileage figures you see with the lower Elantra trims, but the N’s numbers of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 30-highway, and 23 combined with an automatic transmission are not outrageously thirsty considering what you get in the way of performance. The downside is that premium fuel is recommended for the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N.

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N comes with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard and an 8-speed dual clutch automatic is available for an extra $1,500. Starting MSRP for manual models is $32,150 and for the automatic $33,650.

That is a pretty good premium over the over the traditional Elantra, which starts in the lower $20,000 range, but the good thing is that the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N comes with such a long list of standard features little has to be added on to enjoy all it has to offer.

Among standard equipment in the roomy cabin (42 inches of legroom up front, 38 in the rear) are a navigation system with a 10.25-inch display screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bose premium sound, dual automatic climate control, heated front sport bucket seats with leather trim and suede inserts and N markings, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, voice recognition, and a wireless charging pad.

Safety systems on the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N include Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Warning, Lane-Keepimg assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, and Safe Exit and Driver Alert warnings.

Parking Distance Warning and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car Services also are standard along with LED headlights, fog lights, and tail lamps. and rear-wing spoiler. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof  comes with models with the automatic transmission. 

If you insist on adding anything, port-installed options like a cargo net and wheel locks can be had, none adding more than $215 to the bottom line and most costing under $100. The freight charge is $1,095, which means you have a very good chance of getting out of the showroom for under $35,000.

An alert is in order here. The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is not to be confused with the N Line model Hyundai added to the Elantra lineup for 2021. The 2022 Elantra N Line (reviewed here last February) is a very solid alternative if the N’s $30,000-plus price tag scares you off.

But if you are averse to compromises, the Elantra N is the way to go.

What I liked about the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N:
The throttle response is breathtaking and fuel mileage won’t set records but is still pretty good considering what you get in the way of performance. The handling is crisp. Even when pushed, cornering is very steady.with little body roll. Infotainment functions are plentiful and very user-friendly. The roomy restyled cabin is very comfortable, though those with tender ears may not fully appreciate the full-throated dual exhaust. Trunk space is good for its class. The exterior gets distinctive styling touches like a red underline around the body and snazzy wheels that give it a sportier look than your typical Elantra.

What I didn’t like about the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N: Whatever you do, don’t drop your key fob between the front seat and the center console. It takes someone with long, very skinny fingers to retrieve it, assuming you can even see where it has wound up. The only issue I have with the tech features is that there is no knob to turn to surf the radio dial. You have to push and hold arrow buttons to change stations.

Would I buy the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N? Yes. Stylish looks, lots of standard features, and great performance all combine a very attractive package.

Thursday, June 16, 2022




A friend of mine recently bought a new SUV and told me that he loves it, except for possibly one thing.

It’s not for “old people,” he said. “Too many dials and buttons.”

I can relate. Manufacturers understandably want to attract buyers with as many “gee whiz” features as they can come up with, but that comes with a downside, especially for an entire generation who grew up on cars that came only with AM radio and an analog clock that quite often didn’t run, of which I am a member of.

Getting used to all the console knobs, dials, and touchscreen icons on new vehicles can be a process that takes much longer than the week reviewers at my level get with a new model.

Some of these features and operating systems, however, really aren’t all that necessary. Some even may be on their way out if you pay attention to some automotive “experts,” replaced by other technological advances. Others just need tweaking.

Here is my personal list of the foibles of tech systems in today’s automobiles:

Adaptive Cruise Control: There’s nothing more irritating when cruising along at a set speed than coming up behind a slower vehicle with a faster one in the adjacent lane coming up behind you and requiring you to tap the brake to deactivate your standard cruise control system. Adaptive, or “Smart” Cruise Control as some automakers call it, automatically slows you until you can move safely into the passing lane and get around the slow poke in your lane. Though I haven’t had an issue with any car with ACC not slowing automatically, I wouldn’t advise engaging it when in heavy traffic.

Automatic headlights: I can’t remember the last vehicle I had for reviewing that didn’t have this feature. I like it, but I simply don’t trust the timing of systems that automatically lower your high beams. Auto-dimming mirrors, however, are a nice feature.

Automatic hold:
This is a feature that surprisingly hasn’t caught on enough to become universal. My wife’s 15-year-old VW Passat has it, for instance, but the latest six-figure sedan I reviewed didn’t. When activated by pushing a button on the console or dash, it keeps your vehicle from creeping ahead at intersections so you don’t have to keep your foot on the brake. South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia also have related systems on their models that are nice additions. One alerts you with a “ping” when a vehicle stopped ahead of you moves away in case you aren’t paying attention. The other is a camera that shows in your instrument cluster any traffic approaching your blind sides when you activate your turn signal. 

Gesture control: Did anyone ever say “Gee, I wish I could just wave may hand to turn up my radio. Turning this knob is just so tiring”? At least if gesture control is included in standard equipment it won’t cost you anything, but I doubt you’ll use it much. Voice control, on other other hand, provides a nice way to operate some overly complicated infotainment systems, though I don’t use it that much. It can be frustrating to say “call Betty” and the system responds, “Do you want to call Benny?” 

The emergence of Smart phones that allow you to get turn-by-turn directions to your destination has led some reviewers to label built-in navigation systems as unnecessary. But if you are in heavy traffic and want to find an escape route, the larger map on your dash gives you a much clearer picture of what options you might have. I would concede that the $1,500 to $2,000 factory-installed navigation could cost you as an option may not be worth it but several manufacturers (and not just of luxury makes) are including it among their standard features.

Paddle shifters
: I love it when a car shows up in my driveway with a manual transmission, but unless you are going to take your personal vehicle onto the track, there really is no good reason for paddle shifters. If you want to keep your vehicle in third gear, say for towing, you can usually do that via the shifter on the console.

Power liftgate: If your arms are loaded down with packages, you will appreciate being able to open the back of your SUV or wagon by pressing a button on your key fob or, with some vehicles, waving your foot under the rear bumper.

Surround view camera: Backup cameras are now mandatory in the U.S. for new vehicles, but if the car you have your heart set on offers a surround view camera as an option, go for it. You’ll thank me later. It’s a godsend for maneuvering in tight quarters. Rear camera systems with dynamic guidelines also are nice.

Safety systems: Recent developments like automatic braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert, and lane-departure warning/prevention are well worth the money if they are not included in the basic MSRP. Fortunately, many such systems are trickling down from luxury models every year it seems so you may not have to pay extra for them.

Tire pressure monitor: Admit it. You don’t check the air pressure in your tires nearly as often as you should. A tire monitoring system can help you maintain the correct pressure and warn you when one or more is too low or high. More recent systems even indicate which tire may need attention.

: Many infotainment functions in today’s automobiles operate off a touchscreen. The problem is that the screen quickly fills up with fingerprints that can make the screen more difficult to see when bright sunlight hits it. Plus they are just messy. Worse, some luxury manufacturers (“Hey, Mercedes”) have systems that require you to swipe the screen or a pad on the console much like a laptop computer, which can be very distracting. Some touchscreens aren’t all that responsive either. A rotary dial on the console or hard set buttons below the touchscreen is better. Finally, I like the double-screen setup offered on a select few models (Infiniti is one) with the navigation map above the display for other functions like audio. 

This list is by no means complete. You probably have your own personal likes and dislikes about the technology found in today’s cars. Keep in mind, too, that I once was a holdout against power windows because I thought them just something else that could go wrong. Now it has been years since I drove a vehicle without them and I like them. So allow for the grumpiness factor here.

Saturday, June 4, 2022




The S-Class has long been the flagship vehicle for the Mercedes-Benz luxury lineup and a case can be made that it also sits at the top of its class in the auto world period.

The magazine U.S. News & World Report, which doesn’t do original automotive reviews but bases its rankings on an analysis of critiques from several sources, rates the 2022 Mercedes-Benz S-Class No. 1 among vehicles it classifies as “Super Luxury Cars.”

It’s a small but elite group that includes vehicles from Teutonic colleagues (Porsche Panamera and BMW 7-Series), as well as Japan (Lexus LS). The S-Class assumed its lofty perch with the 2021 redesign that kicked off its seventh generation.

With Mercedes having dropped coupe and convertible versions from its S-Class models, the sedan remains the configuration of choice for the S-Class.

The 2022 Mercdes-Benz S-Class is offered in two trim levels, the S 500  and S 580. (Also joining the lineup for 2022 is the Mercedes-Maybach S 680, a 12-cylinder behemoth.) This review is based on the S 580. 

The 2022 Mercedes S 500 comes with a V6 engine, but with the S 580 you get V8 power and a mild hybrid system that adds up to 21 horsepower for short stretches. Not that you really need it. The biturbo 4.0-liter V8 in the 2022 Mercedes S580 pumps out 480 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque to move it from zero-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds or .4 seconds quicker than the S 500.

The engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, and both models also get Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as standard. EPA fuel ratings for the S 580 4MATIC are 16 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 19 combined. The turbocharged V6 S 500 4MATIC improves on those figures with numbers at 21/30/24.

The power is a bonus and much needed to move get the 2022 Mercedes S 580 4MATIC’s heft going, but it is the interior that puts the S-Class at the top of its its class.

From Nappa leather seats with side bolsters that gently squeeze in to coddle you as your negotiate turns to powered sunshades on rear windows, the 2022 Mercedes S 580 4MATIC is all about pampering passengers. A panoramic sunroof and Burmester 3D surround sound soothes the senses while a multi-functional massage system takes away the aches of travel stress.

The front headrests feature pillows lest you bump your head on a quick stop, and the four-zone climate control allows occupants to personalize their own settings. The ride is so smooth and quiet it gives you a feeling of almost floating down the highway.

Technological features borders on overkill. Do you really need a high definition image of the intersection ahead of you projected on the 12.8-inch center display while you are waiting at a stoplight? Not really. After all you can just look through the windshield. But the system is there.

Other standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, six USB ports and rear 115-volt power supply, and Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system with navigation and “Hey, Mercedes” voice command control. The suite of systems in the MBUX does come with a downside, however. It takes a steep learning curve to take advantage of all of them.

Safety systems like a surround view camera system, active parking assist, brake assist, blind-spot and lane-keeping assist, and a Driver Assistance Package that adds such features as adaptive cruise control, attention assist, and active steering and brake assist are including in the starting MSRP of $117,700. (Starting MSRP for the 2022 Mercedes S 500 is $111,100.)

My test 2022 Mercedes S 580 also included “no charge” items like a wood leather-wrapped steering wheel, all-season tires, a porcelain cloth headliner, and a black, crystal-look finish for the center console.

Yes, of course, there were many extras, the big ones being a rear-seat package (special rear-seat lighting were among the numerous features), a rear-seat executive package that included upgraded contour seats with neck and shoulder heating, and a warmth and comfort package.

Among stand-alone options were rear axle steering (for up to 10 degrees) that add to the crisp handling of the 2022 Mercedes S 580 4MATIC, 20-inch wheels (over standard 19s), and active ambient lighting.

All that ran the final bottom line to $135,990 including the $1,050 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2022 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4MATIC: The V8 engine packs plenty of power for sure. The interior is ultra quiet and luxurious, and the ride is smooth. The massage function is a nice feature to have.

What I didn’t like about the 2022 Mercedes-Benz  4MATIC: At just under 13 cubic feet, the trunk is a big small for a vehicle  this size.  Technology functions can eat up a lot of attention, and learning them all is a considerable task. The touchscreen can quickly fill up with fingerprints. 

Would I buy the 2022 Mercedes-Benz S 580 4MATIC? Definitely, though it would take winning a multi-million dollar lottery for me to put it on my list.